Monday, May 28, 2012

It May Have Been Free But They Paid a Price

I am on the road again.  If you have been following my blog, you might remember that my husband is working in Nebraska for about 3 months on an assignment that takes him into a lot of smaller towns.  I have a history of following him on his various assignments but tend to show a real "enthusiasm" for his job when it lands him in Manhattan, NY or San Francisco, CA. I have been known to selflessly keep him company for weeks at a time in West Palm Beach, Fl.  Currently, I am visiting Nebraska for the Memorial Day weekend.

It's not that I don't appreciate this part of the country.  In fact, I do.  The people here are so nice. I am going to charge them the cost of Weight Watchers when my husband returns to Kansas City in 6 weeks, though. They seem insistent on feeding him.  Some of the locals are baking pies and cookies for him to take to his hotel.  As neither of those items appear on the menu at our house, he had better make the best of it while he can. far as this trip, I did go to the  National Homestead Monument  outside of Beatrice, Nebraska for the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act.  Abraham Lincoln signed the act into law on May 20th 1862. 

The key points to this act:

The law required three steps: file an application, improve the land, and file for deed of title. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government, including freed slaves,  could file an application to claim a federal land grant. The occupant had to be 21 or older or the head of a family, live on the land for five years and show evidence of having made improvements. (BTW...this included women that were head of their households)

Here on the site of the National Homestead Monument is part of the first homestead claim  filed in Daniel Freeman, a physician from Ottawa, Illinois. He claimed his 160 acres and full filled the requirements to get title to the land.  He lived 45 years on the property before his death. His grave is on the site of the monument.

A few of the facts concerning the Homestead Act:

1.  More than 270 Million acres were claimed under the Homestead Act.
2. 1.6 Million people filed claims
3. 93 Million Americans are descendants of a Homesteader
4. 40 percent of the people that filed claims couldn't make a go of it and weren't able to meet the requirements to gain title to their property.
5. The Homestead Act was in effect from 1863-1986.  Alaska was the last state to allow people to claim land under the Act. The last man to file a claim was Kenneth Deardorff, a Viet Nam vet from California that filed a claim for 80 acres on the Snake River in Alaska. 

Here in Beatrice, NE, the actual Homestead Museum isn't what I would have thought a museum about the Homestead Act would look like.  I guess, it wouldn't of made sense to build a huge log hut but this felt uber modern compared to the subject matter being about America's pioneers.  It wasn't until after I visited the museum that I learned that the building is an artistic representation of a plow...well actually a plow shear.

a plow in the center of a prairie

going into the visitor's center there is a wall with the shapes
of the 30 states that participated in the Homestead Act.



A little one room school house that was used from 1875 to 1967.


One of the longest running one-room schools in Nebraska.

After leaving the Museum, you can go over a prairie trail (just a little over 3/4 of
a mile to the Educational Center.

The Homestead National Monument Educational Center

Ultimately, what I learned at the Museum and the Educational Center, is I probably would have been one of the 40 percent that didn't make it through the 5 years it took to get the deed. I will tell you why I came to this conclusion tomorrow.


Before I sign off for today...I am sorry for the early launch of this post. As previously mentioned the last time I was in Nebraska, I am struggling with my Internet connection.


meleahrebeccah said...

I've never been to Nebraska. I always imagined it desolate and kinda cold. I'm just happy you have a friggen internet connection this time!

Cheryl P. said...

Nebraska is definitely one of the "plaines" states. A lot of flat farming land but it does have some interesting parts as well. A lot of history here in relationship to the westard expansion of America. Tomorrow I am going to give a couple of stories about the guts it took to move out here before it was settled. It turns out I am just a big woosie and would have starved to death.

I am still struggling with the Internet connection. It comes and goes. Driving me flipping nuts.

Bodaciousboomer said...

It's amazing that that one room school was used till the 60's. Other than corn what is a big crop in Nebraska? When we've driven through Kansas you could see endless fields of sunflowers.

Cheryl P. said...

Corn and beans are the major crops in Nebraska as in most of the plaines states these days. They also grow wheat, hay and milo.

Kansas is the perfect place for sunflowers and it is the state flower. They consider sunflowers one of their major crops as well as those listed for Nebraska.

I was surprised by that as well. There is a picture of the kids playing at recess in 1967 at the school.

Linda Medrano said...

I knew a sailor from Nebraska once. He was corn fed for sure!